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Paddleboarding in the happiest country in the world - focus on Finland

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Photographer Mikko Nikkinen. Image: Visit Finland

In July I am going on a solo adventure paddle around the Finnish islands around the Helsinki archipelago - from the busy capital city to beautiful and remote natural islands...

I am able to do this with the help of an Adventure Queens Grant - see blog post here for details.

The appeal of Finland

Finland is a Nordic country in northern Europe by the Baltic Sea. With 5.5 million inhabitants, it has been recognised as the happiest country in the world for several years running.

I love Finland and feel very connected to the country. Especially with my love of water and nature. With almost 188,000 lakes, more than 30 important rivers with the length of over 100 km and the Baltic Sea, the water is omnipresent in Finland and in the Finnish lifestyle. Canoeing and kayaking in Finland is truly the way to experience the beauty of nature. I have decided to do it by stand-up paddleboard.

I have always loved Finland, and only ever been in winter. See my blog posts: Taking the Santa Claus Express Train to Lapland!, Visit to Lapland on a Budget and Things to do in Helsinki with kids.

Having experienced the Polar Nights in winter, I've had a yearning to go there too in the summer months across Finland - known for their white nights, and in Lapland, as a time when the sun never sets.

Nature and hygge

I also loved the idea of tieing in my adventure with my love of nature. The whole ethos of my trip will be ‘slow adventuring’; exploring the beautiful landscape and nature by water in a mindful way. There will be no racing just meditative paddling and experiencing life rather than going at a hundred miles an hour – like my life is. I have a very stressful life with children with additional needs and a busy life.

Photographer Elina Sirparanta. Image: Visit Finland

Wellness and Mindfulness

Being in nature holds a revered spot in Finnish tradition. “We don’t go into nature to do something, we go there because it feels good,” says Mari Pennanen, who blogs about the benefits of nature in her blog, “For us, nature is healing.”

As well as paddleboarding and wild camping, I will also explore traditional Finnish wellness activities. My days here will be wonderfully slow-paced. Some magical summer experiences I will include as many as possible of are:

  • enjoying a traditional Finnish smoke sauna with a wild swim in the lake afterwards

  • gathering berries

  • hiking nature trails

  • trying delicious and nutritious food

  • swimming/paddling at midnight under the Midnight Sun

Pikku Leikosaari island, one of the islands I'm hoping to visit, features a real public wood-heated sauna, which makes a trip here amazingly special.

On the water

One of the best ways to explore the Finnish nature is on the water. It would be a privilege to experience Finland from the water, in a truly mindful way.

I want to make this adventure focus on nature, hygge and the peacefulness and calm that paddleboarding brings me.

British Canoeing has a good article about paddleboarding and mindfulness:

Image: VIMA Photography

Why the Eastern Helsinki Archipelago?

I will fly to Helsinki, the leading seaport and industrial city of the nation. Located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is a place where urban culture meets coastal nature.

I love how nature and the city exists side by side in Helsinki – there are over 300 islands in the archipelago and I want to explore as many as I can. The Eastern Helsinki archipelago contains various islands, small islands (also known as islets or rocks with just little vegetation), straits, bays, channels, beaches and cliffs. I want to explore the gateway to lush green forests, sandy beaches and coastal nature as a contrast to the bustling city.

Photographer Julia Kivelä. Image: Visit Finland

The islands offer a great escape from the crowded tourist centre of the Finnish capital. Eastern Helsinki is abundant with great paddling destinations. The waters are calm and paddling here is generally easy and relaxing. The routes are plentiful and you can also go ashore on nearby recreational islands along the routes.

As well as paddling to various islands I am hoping to explore some too. There are nature activities such as nature trails to hike, foraging for berries, climbing cliffs and wild swimming. Plus every night I will find an island to wild camp in and cook outdoors.

The Everyman’s Rights

As well as being on the water I will also wild camp along the way, in complete peace and quiet. In Finland, nature is both wild and free. The law allows anyone living in or visiting Finland the freedom to roam the countryside, forage, fish with a line and rod, and enjoy the recreational use of natural areas – respectfully, of course. This is known as ‘The Everyman’s Rights’.

I would love to share my preparations and journey via photos, videos and journalling. I would love to do some little videos of my trip too, showing funny or interesting things I’ve discovered – from abundant berry and mushroom crops to attractive rock formations.

Fun Fact

I will start my Finnish adventure on Sleepyhead day, a day in which the Official Sleepyhead of the Year is thrown into the sea at 7am sharp. The fun lasts from dawn till dusk all over town. This is a must-experience in Naantali! The unique Sleepyhead Festival is the jolliest festival of the year for the whole family.

Blog posts about Finland

See blog posts here about the trip.

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